I was sitting in the garden, having snuck out of the bedroom that had turned into my prison, with Ember lying down with his head in my lap. To his credit, he had not left my side since we had been reunited in the house. It had been two long days and I had finally gotten sick of doing nothing and had snuck out the window, a feat in and of itself as I was so sore and in so much pain. It had taken me leaning on Ember, and even then I fell to the ground and lay there for an unknown amount of time before Ember got me up by licking my face.
Leah, Jaiden, and Damian, who was Jaiden’s father and Leah’s husband, were very kind and very generous. They lived on the edge of Greensage and Leah kept a beautiful garden in the back of the house with all sorts of flowers and even several berry bushes, which I was hiding behind.
Greensage was a Human town about ten miles to the northwest of the mountain that Shadowlyn was built into. It was a quaint little town where everybody seemed to get along with everybody. The houses looked like the houses in Paxtonvale had, save the flowers. The houses did not look dull and grey like my hometown’s. Instead there were green vines that crawled up the sides of the houses that bloomed white and purple flowers. Some of them were even blue. But the queerest thing about the village was that they accepted the Elves.
Aloron and the Followers were some of the favorite people in the village. I had expected a riot or something when they found out, but they had known all along. Aloron explained how they had been afraid at first, but they quickly found the Elves to be kind and interesting folk that helped them with their gardens and their farming.
I stroked Ember’s head and looked down at him. He stared up at me with his smoldering eyes and rolled over, baring his belly. I chuckled and scratched it, making his hind leg move back and forth rapidly. He made a contented noise after a few minutes and rolled back over. I laughed softly and slowly lay back. Ember got up and moved behind me to be my pillow. I relaxed against his softness and my eyes slowly slid closed.
I sat up suddenly, no pain assailing my back. A bloom of delight spread through my chest and I stood up with ease and twirled around the beautiful forest. The gem flowers sparkled in the slivers of sunlight and I ran over to one, curious as to what it smelled like. Its fragrant was sweeter than honeysuckle, yet not so strong that it overwhelmed me. It was good to be back in this mystical forest. My mind was drawn to what the fourth scroll had said and I stood again and looked around for Jesiah. He was a few feet away and I did the only thing that seemed appropriate: I bowed reverently.
Jesiah came forward and lifted my chin up, kissing my forehead as I straightened. He smiled warmly and I smiled back.
“It has been a long while,” I said, almost shyly.
“Indeed it has been,” Jesiah agreed. “Are you angry at me anymore?”
I was confused. “Why would I be…Oh,” I said as I recalled my mother’s death.
The mere thought of it made me angry and it made my chest feel hollow. It hurt and I felt tears well in my eyes. I was enfolded in Jesiah’s arms and I cried. He gently wiped away each tear as it fell until there were no more.
“I do not really understand why you took her,” I said quietly. “But at this point, I do not really need to know. You once told me you know the plans you have for my life. I guess that you know the plans you have for every person’s life, Human or otherwise.”
“You are not always supposed to understand why I do some things I do. If you were supposed to, then I would give you that understanding,” Jesiah said gently.
I nodded. “Makes sense, in an odd way.” I paused then said, “I have a brother.”
Jesiah nodded. “Yes you do.”
“He does not believe in you.”
“That is not entirely true. He does believe in me. He does not trust in me. He does not understand.”
“Oh. Trust in you for what?”
Jesiah smiled mysteriously. “You shall find out.”
“The fourth scroll mentioned that the key to life is in the fifth scroll. Is it true?”
“Yes. The key to life, and life to the fullest, is in the fifth scroll.”
My imagination flew into action as I tried to think of what the key to life could possibly be. Jesiah simply smiled at me and the world around him melted away. The last thing I saw was the bright light of Jesiah standing in the middle of pitch blackness, the light of the whole world that I could see.
Somebody was standing over me and I moved swiftly, reaching up and grabbing a handful of fabric then I tried to sit up. All I felt was pain and I collapsed back against Ember. I opened my watering eyes to see Jaiden looking worried above me. The alarm disappeared, but the pain lingered as I stared at him.
“What?” I asked irritably, my voice a little hoarse.
“Aloron sent me out to find you. He is not very happy.”
“I don’t care,” I said, closing my eyes. “The house was suffocating me.”
I felt Jaiden sit down beside me and we were silent for a while. I was about asleep again when Jaiden spoke.
“May I ask you something?”
“Yes,” I said, forcing my eyes open so I could look up at him.
“Is it true?”
“Is what true?” I queried.
“The stories in those scrolls.”
I smiled. “What do you think?”
“They sound so fantastic! But…yeah, they seem true enough. They give answers to questions that many people do not think of. And I would like to think there is a God who loves me.”
“Then there is your answer,” I replied.
“I was wondering…Aloron gave you the scrolls back, correct?” I nodded and he continued. “Well, I was hoping that I could borrow them from you and peruse them. Would you mind?”
“Not at all,” I replied. “But I am not getting them for you right now. It hurt enough when I tried to grab you.”
“Maybe I can go and get them for you?”
“If you want. They are in my pack.”
“Where is your pack?”
“I shall go and get it,” a voice said and I turned my head to see Valtrak.
“Were you eavesdropping?” I asked teasingly.
The Dwarf smiled. “Aloron sent me to look for you as well.”
“Wonderful. So glad he trusts me,” I said with a soft chuckle.
“You know he is just concerned about you.”
“I know. He is more annoying than Elthinor, though.”
Valtrak laughed softly at that then disappeared to go get the scrolls. I relaxed back against Ember and closed my eyes again. I heard the Dwarf return soon after. I felt him settle down beside me, then I sensed him reaching over me to hand the containers to Jaiden. I could hear the crinkle of paper as Jaiden unrolled one and then…quiet. The only sounds to be heard were our breathing.
That was how Aloron found us an undetermined amount of time later. I opened my eyes when I Valtrak greeted him. Aloron had a funny look on his face as he stared at us.
“What?” I asked, staring back.
“You three are quite the sight,” he answered after a moment. “And a sight I honestly never thought I would see in my lifetime.”
I furrowed my eyebrows. “What do you mean, Aloron?”
“More than one race getting along with each other. There is an air of companionship amongst you three. Especially you and Valtrak, Filynora.”
“We have had adventures together,” Valtrak said suddenly. “They could either drive us apart or together. Ours have been like a wave, swelling up in companionship sometimes before crashing down and driving us to fight amongst ourselves. It has been that way since I joined the group, and no doubt was that way before I did, too.”
Aloron stared at the young Dwarf. “You speak quite eloquently about such a complicated subject. You seem intelligent beyond your years.”
“I studied many books and scrolls in Crystalmoor, but there are not nearly enough. Most of the books we have were the ones borrowed from Oidynhall before the big cave in.”
“Cave in?” Aloron asked curiously.
“Yes. The entrance tunnel leading to it was suddenly filled with rocks one day. Nobody dared to move the rocks for fear another cave in would happen. But the strange thing was that not one Dwarf heard the rocks crashing to the ground. It is as if they just appeared. They are quite real rocks, but it does not add up to a cave in.”
“Then what, pray tell, does it add up to?”
“I don’t know,” Valtrak admitted. “But I shall not be moved on the subject.”
I smiled. “You are just as stubborn as I am,” I said, gingerly reaching a hand out to place it on his forearm.
“I highly doubt that. Elthinor and Gabrithon have enjoyed discussing your stubbornness at great length. They believe that nothing could sway your beliefs. Not even death.”
“Who’s death?” I asked bluntly.
“I believe you are stubborn enough to weather even your friends’ deaths,” Valtrak said without skipping a beat. “Even if you lost everything, you have been chosen by Jesiah to see him and interact with him. You have unshakeable proof that Jesiah is real, and therefore, that God is real because they are related.”
I turned my gaze up to the blue sky and watched the pure white, puffy clouds roll by and really thought about that. Nothing I could think of could shake my belief in God and Jesiah. I knew they were real. They might not be seen all the time, but I knew they were real.
“True. Very true,” I replied.
“Can Jesiah lie?”
The question was so off topic that turned abruptly to look at Jaiden, pain spider webbing up my back in the process.
“Can Jesiah lie?” he repeated.
I did not even think about it. “No. I don’t think he can. He radiates truth.”
I was surprised to hear myself say that. I never had thought about it before, but in the soft light that radiated off of Jesiah, there was truth.
“He never lied,” I realized. “Not once in his life. He always was truthful.”
“That’s impossible,” Jaiden argued. “Everybody lies. A lot!”
“He did not,” I said forcefully, forcing myself to sit up to look the boy straight in the eyes.
He drew back, looking alarmed. “How do you know?” he asked hesitantly.
“Because I have been in his presence. He just…is truth. I cannot describe it any better than that.”
Jaiden stared at me. “When you feel up to it, could you tell me about seeing him?”
“Why the curiosity?” I asked him in return.
He looked blindsided by the question. “Why not? It seems so natural to be curious about this. At least it seems that way to me.”
I stared at him then slowly lowered myself back down, Valtrak helping me. It seemed like what Llugat had said about Humans was true. They were meant to be spiritual leaders.
I smiled at him. “I would be delighted, but later. I am tired.”
“Then let’s get you to bed,” Aloron said, moving to help me stand.
A few minutes later as I lay in bed, I considered what had happened to my friends, especially Elthinor. A shiver of fear rushed through me. For some reason that I did not understand, Nolan had singled him out. I feared he would do it again, and this time the consequences would be worse.
As I stared at the ceiling I began to pray. “God, I may not understand everything you do, but there must be a reason Elthinor and my friends were captured. As much as it makes me angry, I have to trust that you know what is best for us all. I pray that you protect them so that we have the chance to save them from those who wish to harm them, but your will be done whatever happens. Thank you for listening. And say hello to Jesiah for me.”
As I drifted off to sleep, I knew that we would at least have the chance to save them. But first I would have to get well. I resolved to listen to Aloron, no matter how much it annoyed me. Saving my friends became a priority to me. Without them, I could not hope to get the last scroll, but more importantly, I did not want to lose them. They were the best friends I had ever had, and that was the truth.
To be continued…